You’re Invited for Our Last Book Club Meeting of the Season, Monday, 4/23, Featuring Julie Klassen’s THE INNKEEPER OF IVY HILL

Friends!  Save next Monday night, April 23rd, from 6:30-8:00 p.m.,  where we’ll have a delightful time discussing Julie Klassen’s Innkeeper of Ivy Hill. Come and bring a friend with you!

Thanks to my sweet friend, Nancy Tinnell, bailing me out yet again on the write up of our selection (She’d finished the book and I had not yet!), you’ll get to enjoy her teaser on the book below:


On Monday, April 23rd, Branches Book Club will end the season with a discussion of Julie Klassen’s The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill. What a contrast this book is to last month’s selection, The Choosing, which took place far in the future.

For April, we have traveled in our literary time machine back to Wiltshire, England in the year 1820. Passenger coach travel supports the existence of charming inns, where travelers can find good food and a soft bed before resuming their journey.

After the death of her husband, Jane Bell is expected to keep the Bell Inn running efficiently. Her knowledge of business in general and how the Inn functions from day to day are equally lacking, but she must somehow pull things together. She is surrounded by long time Inn employees and relatives of her late husband, but can she trust them to help her and not take advantage of her? We are left wondering for a while just who the good guys and bad guys are in this novel.

Publishers Weekly had this to say: “Klassen blends her tale well; each ingredient-romance, friendship, mystery-is measured to produce a lively tale that will satisfy Regency aficionados and general readers, too.” I totally agree! I loved attempting to assess brother-in-law Patrick’s motives; the intentions of Mr. Locke, and how long it would take mother-in-law Thora to soften.

Many of our Branches Book Club members have a soft spot for Regency fiction, and this book, first in Klassen’s TALES FROM IVY HILL series, does not disappoint. We look forward to sharing with you on the 23rd!

Yes, we will be in the sanctuary! This will keep us near the special LifeWay display in the lobby. Our friends from LifeWay will have all of next year’s books for you to purchase at a discount, in addition to other titles you may be interested in. Posters of next year’s book list will be available for you to share with others. We hope to see you there!


Thank you, Nancy!

Another fun fact is several of us have also enjoyed another book by Julie, “The Apothecary’s Daughter“, just in case you’d like to read another selection by her.

We hope to see you next Monday night, 4/23, from 6:30-8:00.  Please RSVP to Nancy Tinnell at (502) 245-8839 and don’t forget we’re meeting in the sanctuary.

11902 Old Shelbyville Road, Louisville, KY 40243

Also you will NOT want to miss this opportunity to learn of our selections for our next season (BIG REVEAL!!!), plus you’ll want to discover which authors are coming to be with us, and to snag the books early for your summer reading that LifeWay is so gracious to set up for us!

‘Til next time!


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Why Biblical Meditation Brings Peace… (with help from Robert J. Morgan)

Friends! Is your spring fever producing heightened anxiety? Trying to calm down, but for whatever reason, you can’t? I’ve got good news for all of us!  Thanks to insight from author Rob Morgan, we can find true peace.  I’ll be sharing highlights from his excellent book, Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation—Find True Peace in Jesus.

I confess I didn’t know what “Biblical meditation” was until I read Rob’s book.  He tell us, “meditation is not new and it’s not new age. God, not the gurus, devised it, and it’s based on the Bible, not on Buddha.”

We know any time anything is repeated in the Bible, it’s significant.  We readers learn how many times references to  “meditation”, “pondering” and “thinking” occur, “encouraging us to engage our thoughts with His Word.”

Rob quotes J. I. Packer in his powerful book, Knowing God:

“…the words meditate and meditation occur 21 times in the Bible.

…the words think, thinking, and thoughts, 252 times.

Mind is mentioned 163 times,

And the word ponder  9 times.”

Still a tad on the skeptical side, I continued reading.  Clearly reading my mind, Rob point blank says, “If you’re a bit allergic to meditation, well….get over it.” I about fell out of my chair.

Then we readers are shown how many heroes from the Bible meditated, such as Isaac (Genesis 24:63), Joshua (Joshua 1:8), the Psalmist (Psalm 1:2-3), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 15:16), Mary the Mother of Jesus (Luke 2:19), Paul (Philippians 4:8 in the Message), the writer of Hebrews (Hebrews 3:1), and even the Lord Jesus! (Mark 4:20 in the Voice).

Rob credits the Navigators for getting him started on Biblical meditation. They use the visual of a hand to help us understand.  Hold up your hand and consider your 2nd thru’ 5th fingers to “hear the Word, read the Word, study the Word, and memorize the Word.” Then consider your thumb, “strengthening the grip on meditation.”

Rob shows us many benefits of Biblical meditation:

Spiritual growth

Emotional strength

Deeper intimacy with the Lord

Soul-steadying peace

Healthier attitudes

Lest any of you fear the thought of memorizing Scripture (I’m nodding with you!), Rob has also written an excellent resource for this very thing:  101 Bible Verses Everyone Should Know by Heart.

Quoting painter Paul Maze who had listened to Winston Churchill on the radio. Maze wrote telling Churchill how he’d allayed his fears, “Every word you said was like every drop of blood in a transfusion.”

Rob says, “And so it is for us with the Bible. Every word is like a transfusion of strength, of peace, of wisdom, of knowledge about both everyday life and eternal life.”

While each chapter has wonderful take home value, my favorite is Chapter Six: Gaining Insight into God’s Will. The concept of “standing in His council” will blow you away, never reading the Word the same again.

After the Conclusion, you’ll arrive at the golden nugget of the book:  We readers are gifted with examples of ten days of a “Meditation Guide” where we’re taught how to “Ponder”, “Personalize”, and “Practice” a portion of Scripture.

There are lined, blank pages after each example for you to make your own notes.  THIS IS WORTH A SMALL FORTUNE! Ah well, a wee exaggeration perhaps, but Rob’s suggestion to take these “ten passages, ten minutes, ten days”… is well worth your time. DO TRY THIS AT HOME!

Walk, don’t run, to your nearest bookstore and secure Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation!  Peace will pour over you like you’ve never experienced.  (Bravo, Rob for this tool!  Bravo to our Sweet Lord and His Word, where His well of wisdom never runs dry.)

‘Til next time!


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Holy Week – Anxiety = Peaceful Week… (With Help from Max Lucado)

Friends! Anyone lugging around worries that are making you anxious?  (I’m just realizing lug is in luggage.) Luggage denotes “inconveniently heavy baggage.”  Well, take heart, I’m bringing you good news to lighten your load and bless us this Holy Week.

Many of you know how often I quote author Max Lucado.   His most recent book, Anxious for Nothing—Finding Calm in a Chaotic World, is a current favorite, its’ many pages already highlighted and dog-eared.

I’ll share a few of many favorite quotes which I pray will ease our anxiety, perhaps even erase it altogether, blessing us with a peaceful Holy Week. In the meantime, you may wish to grab this book as it’s a resource you would return to time and time again.

Max begins with, “Anxiety is a meteor shower of what-ifs…

Anxiety is trepidation.

It’s a suspicion,

An apprehension.

Life in a minor key with major concerns…

You’re part Chicken Little and part Eeyore. The sky is falling and it’s falling disproportionately on you.”  Anyone?!!! Max not only cracks me up, he often perfectly depicts my own moods.

Flip on the news or grab a newspaper and “anxiety disorders” are usually the front runners.  Epidemic proportions.

Max states what we think, yet fear to admit:  “One would think Christians would be exempt from worry. But we are not. We have been taught that the Christian life is a life of peace, and when we don’t have peace, we assume the problem lies within us. Not only do we feel anxious, but we also feel guilty about our anxiety!  The result is a downward spiral of worry, guilt, worry, guilt.”

What’s a person to do?  Thankfully, Max gifts us with the solution straight from Scripture. Philippians 4:4-8 says:

Max shows us that these five verses include, “four admonitions that lead to ONE WONDERFUL PROMISE:  ‘the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds.’” (v. 7)

Additionally, this book blesses us throughout by equipping us with a simple acronym, the word “CALM”.  Put this in your anxiety arsenal and you will have a peaceful Holy Week:


The concept of “CALM” is introduced in Chapter One,  and expounded on throughout the book.  You’ll never look at it again in the same way! (See page 10 for starters!)

We readers are reminded to consult the Apostle Paul’s words and actions. Max says, “Paul believed in the steady hand of a good God. He was protected by God’s strength, preserved by God’s love. He lived beneath the shadow of God’s wings.”

What does that look like for us?  It translates into savoring God’s sovereignty.  Clinging to His sovereignty and reminding ourselves daily that God is still on the throne.  Always occupied.  Always interceding for you and for me…

This Holy Week as we march toward Good Friday and Easter, may we remember the acronym “Calm”, and hear Max’ reminder:  “God took the crucifixion of Friday and turned it into the celebration of Sunday.”

Max’ book also includes a Study Guide which would be great for anyone, but also super for a Small Group to work thru’.  And, more good news, he’s got another new book coming out this summer, due to be released August 7th, called Unshakable Hope:  Building Our Lives on the Promises of God.  Yet one more sure-to-be great resource!

Have a most blessed Easter.

‘Til next time!



Filed under Book Reviews, Holidays, Scripture

Join Us for Book Club Monday, 3/26, for a wild discussion of The Choosing by Rachelle Dekker!

Friends! You and your friends are all invited to come hear a wildly entertaining discussion of a Sci-Fi novel that’s quite the page-turner. You’re about to be blessed by my friend, Nancy Tinnell, as she’s written a great teaser for you to get y’all to come Book Club!

Please enjoy Nancy’s write-up:

Are you a fan of futuristic fiction, books like The Hunger Games, e.g.? My experience with it has been less than minimal. I read 1984 by George Orwell when I was in high school. That’s the extent of it!

Our March selection for Branches Book Club may be the first futuristic fiction selection ever to appear on our reading list. In The Choosing (book one of the Seer series), Rachelle Dekker has created a story that keeps us anxious for what we know to be good and true to prevail over what is not just bad, but evil.

It is the year 2257 in America, which has fostered a dystopian (think utopia in the polar opposite direction) society based in Washington, D.C. Everyone is organized and ruled by the Authority, leaders who are supposed to be wise advisors and keepers of order and lawfulness. If you are familiar with the Lord Acton quote, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” you will be able to understand how one of the members of the Authority descended into a madness that made him dangerous to those closest to him and to their society.

The Authority studies and follows the teachings of the Veritas (truth). They frequently quote sentences that remind us of familiar Scriptural teachings but leave us feeling a little nervous. Here is an example:

Veritas: “Let every citizen be subject to the Authority. For there is no true authority except from God, and those who have been appointed have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the Authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”

The Authority interprets the Veritas for their own benefit. In Dekker’s novel, the citizens who detect corruption in the Authority have no voice, no choice, and no free will. They are ignorant of the word grace, having never experienced it.  When a leader “goes rogue,” it creates a tension in us as we read and makes us desperately hope for rescue for our main characters, who are innocents trapped in this unforgiving society.

We invite you to join us at Branches Book Club on Monday, March 26th, from 6:30-8:00 p.m. for what promises to be a lively discussion of The Choosing. Remember we’re under construction. To find us, enter the front glass doors to the church and take the rear sanctuary stairs to the lower level meeting rooms.

11902 Old Shelbyville Road, Louisville, KY 40243


Thank you for the write-up Nancy!

We hope to see y’all Monday night! Please RSVP to Nancy by calling (502) 245-8839.

’Til next time!

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Transform Your Morning and Your Mood in Less Than TEN Minutes…

Friends! March madness won’t drive us mad IF we try the below suggestion each morning…

GOOD NEWS for you readers out there: You do NOT have to be a morning person to start your day off well!!!

Coming from a confirmed grouch in the morning, in dire need of a pot of coffee prior to producing any semblance of intelligent conversation, I’m happy to report that listening to music in the morning brings blessings a plenty:

music and technology concept - smiling young woman with closed e

Blessing #1: Your focus will shift away from you and your distractions, rising up to the Lord.

Blessing #2: Praising the Lord allows you to worship with truths straight out of God’s Word.

Blessing #3: Your spirit will be lifted no matter your circumstance.

I’ll be giving you two worship songs shortly to get you started. If you listen to both of them, you can do this in under ten minutes

Recently we talked briefly about Dee Brestin’s book The God of All Comfort: Finding Your Way into His Arms which she graciously penned after her husband’s death. Songs are what saved her sanity.

The God of All Comfort

The first song I’d like to share with you John and I discovered while attending our middle son’s church, Tates Creek Presbyterian Church (TCPC), in Lexington, Kentucky.( )

Upon singing this song with its’ powerful lyrics (which caused me to weep), I made a mental note to investigate it.  I also wrongly assumed, because of TCPC’s more liturgical services and typically older hymns, that this song was also an old one. Au contraire…

Please allow me to show you one of my new favorites,

O Church Arise by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend. (Never mind they also wrote a huge favorite of mine and I suspect yours, In Christ Alone. Checkout Travis Cottrell’s rendition if you have time.)

Keith is a British, Northern Irish composer, married to Kristyn, who many times co-write these “modern hymns”. Stuart Townend is a British, English songwriter and worship leader.


Please sit back and enjoy Oh Church Arise. Soak in the lyrics:

To read these truths from the lyrics, here are just a few Scriptures that spell them out:

Ephesians 6:10-18; 2 Corinthians 4:6 and 8, 12:9; 1 John 1:5; Isaiah 14:2; Psalm 27:1; Philippians 4:13; Romans 5:2; Colossians 2:15; and Hebrews 4:12.

The second song I’d like to show you I suspect you already know, but perhaps hadn’t been able to savor the Scripture around which it’s centered.

I’d heard about Kari Jobe over the past few years and was blessed to be led in worship by her at a Women of Faith Conference in Houston in March of 2014. (Click on “Houston We Have an Answer” from 3/6/14) FYI:

I love her song I Am Not Alone for several reasons…the most important of which is the reminder within the title. As believers in Jesus Christ, because of the gift of the Holy Spirit within us, we are never alone.

Matthew 28:20 is where Jesus tells us, “And lo, I am with you always…” Kari also says while writing the song, they began with Exodus 14:14, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. 

Please enjoy:

Savor these Scriptures which go along with Kari’s song:

Isaiah 43:1-2; Daniel 3; Psalm 23; Psalm 46; Deuteronomy 31:6, 8; 2 Corinthians 7:9-16; Romans 9:2; John 12:35; Exodus 14:14; and 2 Chronicles 20:17. (You can find more if you hunt!)

My prayer for all of us is as we begin our days, may we jump start them with worship and praise as only our Lord deserves. See if your mood doesn’t vastly improve as well.

‘Til next time!


Filed under Music, Scripture

HOT OFF THE PRESS! Grab “Searching for Spring” to Renew Your Hope…

Friends! Run, don’t walk, to your nearest bookstore and grab Searching for Spring—How God Makes All Things Beautiful in Time by Christine Hoover. It releases this week!

If you’ve been desirous of spring’s arrival so as to ditch winter, this book’s for you.  Christine gifts the reader with hope, putting a kick back into your step. She also improves your eyesight so it’ll engage in looking for our Creator’s beauty at every turn.

You’ll resonate with her honesty and find yourself saying, “Wow, I didn’t know anyone else felt that way!” Personally, I read the whole book with amazement because Christine is a pastor’s wife.  Their little family moved away to start a church plant in their home all the while having three little boys running around. Piece of cake, right?

Catherine Parks, who wrote A Christ-Centered Wedding, said, “This is a book that invites the reader to slow down, look around, and rejoice in the hope of the coming warmth of spring.”  Ahhh, yes…

Christine opens her book with a killer question from her son (our boys used to do this while I was driving the car which was a blessing as they couldn’t see the shock on my face!):  “Mom, is life hard?” How would you answer that question?

Structuring her chapters around the passage in Ecclesiastes 3:1-11, we readers get to visit all four seasons with the bulk of the chapters landing in winter.  I found this comforting, always feeling like winter is our longest season, even tho’ it’s the same number of months as the other three.  However, if we’re in a metaphorical “winter”, we all know it can last for years. Christine blesses us with additional help to survive “inconsolable things”. She calls these triggers for winter.

Via a game of hide and seek in the book, our eyes become trained to look for God’s beauty thanks to loads of pertinent Scripture and truths behind them. Christine says, “We all must be perpetual seekers in a cosmic game of Hide and Seek.”

She adds, “Beauty is the drumbeat that began playing on the earth’s birthday and has never stopped since, a bass drum pulsing beneath all we see and touch and taste and experience in this life, urging us to march into battle…

The mallet hits in rhythm:  God has made everything to be beautiful in the past.

Again:  God will make everything turn out beautiful in the future.

Again:   God is currently working to make all things beautiful right at this very moment.”

Finally, I’d like to close (so as not to spill any more about the book!) with my most favorite and comforting quote:

The truth that Christ’s kingdom will forever reign, when all things will be made beautiful and right, is the truth we need for our day.

It’s the truth that enables us to
face discomfort,
broken relationships,
loss, and
death with unwavering hands
and steadfast hearts.

It’s the truth that motivates us to faithfully serve in obscurity.

It’s the truth that helps us hang in and hang on.

Because of Christ’s resurrection, we know that death will be the last enemy destroyed and we will once again walk with God as Adam and Eve did. Something good is guaranteed in the end.”

Thank you, Christine Hoover, for opening my eyes to our Creator, His beauty, and the hope we can hang our hats on for each and every day. May God bless you and your family, and your church for your faithfulness.

Friends, you will be blessed by reading Searching for Spring! And don’t miss her other books!

And don’t miss snippets from Christine on Ann Voskamp’s blog this week! (If Your Faith Struggled Waiting for God to Make All Things New)

‘Til next time!

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Love Stories and Chocolate Treats (Part 4 of 4) Dare We Write it in Cement?

Friends! Have you ever seen anyone staring at a mailbox?  I get that.  I’ve done that.

Four weeks before our wedding, with invitations in hand, all addressed and stamped, I remember I hesitated at the mailbox.  “This is it!  No turning back now!”…

Seconds, seeming like hours, passed.  Deep breath.

Whoosh…into the mailbox they went.


Almost thirty-four years later, I’m pleased to report, John and I are still happily married and yes, we’ve dared to write many things in cement.  Two of our homes, a former one and our current one, have had charming water-in-the-basement issues. Upon their repair, new cement poured, we trek down the stairs to write something prolific or silly in the cement.

basement 1

basement 2

So why is it, please tell me, so many of us are afraid to make a commitment?  Fear of failure, or pride, perhaps.  “Blame it on today’s culture…” many will say.

Allow me to offer a brief respite.  One  into the blissful world of love.  Young love.  Naive love.   Pagan-turned-Christian love.  So completely-certain-of-love, this couple you’ll meet would one hundred percent  have written their names in cement.

All of the above and more is found in an extraordinary love story, A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken.  It won the National Book Award as well as the Gold Medallion Award.  (A dear friend gave me this for Christmas a couple of years ago and I can’t quit talking about it!!!)


Along with such bliss, throw in a friendship with none other than infamous author  C.S. Lewis.  You, the reader, will get to read eighteen of Lewis’ letters to Sheldon within the book.

Favorite discovery?  Lewis was quite the crackerjack!  He certainly didn’t fear sharing his brutally honest opinion about anything!  (And for you happy texters out there, Lewis abbreviates a lot, so you’ll have to crack his code.)

How God orchestrates Sheldon’s friendship with Lewis is fascinating.  How God orchestrates Sheldon and Davy’s (her real name was Jean) romance and ultimate marriage is nothing short of breathtaking.

Sheldon’s picturesque writing causes you to ooh and ahh, turning the pages as fast as you can to discover what lies ahead.  I found myself floating along the countryside right with them, almost feeling a breach of privacy in their romance.

Voracious readers, poets, lovers of the sea, and music aficionados, Sheldon and Davy delight the reader with their daily antics.  Their gatherings with friends are festive and intriguing.  Their spiritual path, while comical at times, reinforces how God is so passionate in His pursuit of us.  His painstaking attention to detail never ceases to amaze me.

Our Heavenly Father provides just the right person at just the right time to lead us into His loving arms.  When doubt arises, as it often does,  He brings to mind that special person in whom we may confide.  Watching these scenarios transpire in Sheldon’s life is amazing grace at its’ finest.  Many times Sheldon shares his questions with C.S. Lewis.  Can you imagine having C.S. Lewis as your spiritual mentor?

CS Lewis

Sheldon and C.S. Lewis’ friendship was a gift to both of them, especially in later years.  Believe it or not, both of their wives suffered from terminal illnesses.  They walked these paths together.  Don’t miss their journeys.

C.S. Lewis preceded Sheldon in death.  Sheldon recalls Lewis shouting across the street during their Oxford days, “Christians NEVER say goodbye!  In eternity, there’ll be ‘time enough’!”

Sheldon called C.S. Lewis  “Jack” per Lewis’ pleading.  He added, “And as Jack said, ‘We must talk of a thousand things when you come.’”

Early in their relationship, when Sheldon accepts Christ into his life, he writes to tell Lewis.  Lewis replies, “My prayers are answered!”  Then he issues a warning we’d all be wise to heed:  “There will be a counter attack on you, you know, so don’t be too alarmed when it comes.  The enemy will not see you vanish into God’s company without an effort to reclaim you.  Be busy learning to pray. “

Lewis continues, “Blessings on you and a hundred thousand welcomes.  Make use of me in any way you please; and let us pray for each other always.”  (I’d drop the note like a hot potato if C.S. Lewis offered me his council at any time, wouldn’t you?)


Prior to Sheldon’s conversion, Lewis closes another letter with, “The Holy Spirit is after you.  I doubt if you’ll get away!” Sheldon confesses to us readers that this time in his life “was getting serious” and he and Davy were a bit frightened.  He says, “Alarm bells sounded, but I couldn’t decide where to run.  The personality of Jesus kept emerging from the Gospels with astonishing consistency.”

You’ll be moved to tears witnessing their faith come alive.  Because of Sheldon’s very open and tender depictions, it feels like another breach of privacy.

Sheldon and Davy embraced Philippians 1:21 and Galatians 2:20:


“For to me, to live is Christ

and to die is gain.”


I’ve been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

(Footnote: for an excellent read on To Live Is Christ to Die Is Gain checkout Matt Chandler’s book…)


Without giving away anything else, I’ll end with Sheldon’s closing words about writing this book.  He said he prayed almost hourly, “that Christ would be in me, and speak through me.”  His prayers were answered…(Also don’t miss how the title came to be.)

He was dumbfounded by the overwhelming responses from readers once the book was published.   Scores told him how much the book meant to them, stabbing them in their hearts, making them kindred spirits.  Sheldon said, “Our broader kinship is, I think, we’re all so alone in what lies deepest in our souls, so unable to find the words and perhaps the courage to speak with unlocked hearts, that we do not know that it is the same with others.”  Amen.

“Robert Louis Stevenson said that every book was intimately a letter to friends.”


I pray each and every one of you dashes out to find and read this beautiful love story, A Severe Mercy.

Finally, as February winds down, it’s time for our conclusion of our four chocolate treats…This is an easy store-bought delicacy by our good buddies at Godiva. Some angel in disguise gave me these last year and I’ve been buying them ever since. (Bad discovery!)

We had our family over for Valentine’s Day and this was the very fancy dessert I served RIGHT OUT OF THE BAG. (My Mother, who served everything in crystal or silver serving pieces, is rolling over in her grave. God rest her soul.)

Don’t miss these little morsels of Heaven! Your Friends will love you!

‘Til next time!


Filed under Book Reviews